Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Notebook: Eagles Return to Hockey Semifinals for Fourth Straight Year

Boston College men’s hockey, however dismal its regular season was, is now just two wins away from a berth in the NCAA Tournament after a come-from-behind series victory as the No. 7 seed against No. 2 Providence. It wasn’t always pretty—the Eagles blew 3-1 and 2-0 leads in consecutive games—but they got an inspired performance from sophomore Logan Hutsko and excellent goaltending down the stretch from Joseph Woll to pull off the upset of the Friars and return to TD Garden. There, BC will face the conference’s regular season champion and No. 3 team in the nation, Massachusetts, for a chance to return to the conference title game and vie for its 12th title in tournament history.

In advance of that, here are five things that stood out in the Eagles’ series with the Friars, one that punched their ticket to the semifinals for the fourth year in a row.

1) Logan Lucky

Not enough can be said about the performance of Hutsko, the reigning Hockey East Rookie of the Year who had been mired in a scoring slump coming into the series. The sophomore had last lit the lamp in the second period of a Dec. 6 win over Connecticut, but erupted for back-to-back game-winning goals on Saturday and Sunday against the Friars. He made a name for himself in 2017-18 by coming up in clutch situations, including a third-period hat trick against Harvard in last year’s Beanpot consolation game and both the game-tying and overtime game-winning goal against Massachusetts Lowell earlier in the month. That ability was on display against Providence and bodes well for a team that is wrestling with injuries that have decimated its forward lines.

2) Motivational

While on the note of Hutsko’s pair of crucial goals, it’s worth mentioning that both were followed by a rousing rendition of BC’s fight song from the pep band, which made the trip to Rhode Island for all three of the games. Jerry York was sure to thank them after, and rightfully so—their rendition of “For Boston” while the Eagles mobbed Woll and celebrated their Game Three win was something out of a classic sports movie.

3) Snakebitten

One of the biggest things standing in the Eagles’ way, both against the Friars and the upcoming matchup with UMass, is injuries. In the regular season finale, a loss to Providence, York had his team at full strength, but that quickly fell apart. Fourth-line center Aapeli Räsänen was injured in the opening game, which resulted in a reshuffling of lines that bumped Ron Greco down from the third line and brought in Chris Grando. Jack McBain also got hurt, resulting in Mike Merulla—having nine career games played—sliding into the fourth line. The Eagles survived and advanced, but they could very well be at full strength by Friday, as they face a formidable and deep opponent.

4) Chippiness

In conference play, BC was one of the least penalized teams, checking in at 9.2 minutes per game. Providence, meanwhile, averaged a full minute-plus more, slotting in at 10.7 and fourth in the conference. That advantage in averages went by the wayside quickly, though, as the Eagles committed more penalties in two of the three games and finished with 34 penalty minutes, an unsustainable 11.3 per game average (The Friars finished with 30 minutes, slightly below their season mark). While the series ended in victory, York has to be frustrated with his team’s high penalty rate, especially because that was a problem last year (12.8, third in Hockey East) and doesn’t bode well for the UMass matchup—the Minutemen lead the conference while on the power play.

5) Unexpected

Outside of Hutsko, the biggest player for the Eagles in the series was found, rather unexpectedly, on the blue line. Like his sophomore counterpart, defenseman Michael Kim hadn’t etched his name into the scoresheet for quite some time—13 games in a row, to be exact. Not wanting to see his season end against Providence, Kim stepped up and strung together a three-game points streak. He scored and had an assist in the series opener, tallied two assists in the second, and logged the game’s first goal in the finale. Kim entered Rhode Island with 10 points on the season and exited with half that total on the weekend alone in a surprising and much-needed effort.

Featured Image by Ken Jancef / Courtesy of BC Athletics

March 19, 2019